Joyful Endurer or Unhappy Dropout—Which?
“Now we are not the sort that shrink back to destruction, but the sort that have faith to the preserving alive of the soul.”—Heb. 10:39.
1. Why do so many persons fail to endure in a chosen line of endeavor?
IN THESE fast-changing times it is hard for a person to endure in any chosen line of endeavor. He has to face much competition and opposition along with a great deal of hard work and many heartbreaks. Some do not have the strength to stay in the race or the source of strength on which to draw to keep up their courage. Others decide that the end or objective does not justify the effort and the endurance of hardship. These become dropouts.
2. Why are those who become “dropouts” unhappy?
2 It is an inherent desire in man to accomplish something. There is nothing that can take the place of the exhilarating joy of accomplishment. And it is natural for one to want his life to be in some way a contribution to society. Those who endure, finally reaching their objective, are the happy ones. Dropouts may get some temporary relief by avoiding the responsibilities and pressures that the enduring ones face, yet they create an atmosphere of unhappiness for themselves by dropping out—loss of confidence, a conscience that torments them and lack of self-respect. This is especially true if the endeavor in which a person was engaged was a right and worthy cause and his life turns out to be a failure.
3. In starting out on a chosen course, what things must one consider so that he may endure?
3 Anyone who wants to make his life one of accomplishment and does not want to be a dropout must plan ahead, considering four major things. First, he must determine whether the objective at which he is aiming is the right one, one that will bring him and those around him lasting happiness. Second, he must carefully examine and ascertain whether the means that he will use to obtain his sought-for objective is honest, just and righteous. Third, he must get the right view of endurance. Fourth, being sure of all these things, he must firmly make up his mind to go ahead.—Compare Luke 14:28-33.
4. Having started toward his objective, what must he then do?
4 Having set his course, he has to realize that he will need to call on all available resources that are able to supply him the strength required to face obstacles successfully and to finish the course that he has chosen. (Phil. 3:12-16) He must continually check up on himself to be sure that he is pursuing the direct course toward his objective, watching closely that he does not drift to one side or the other. He will keep correcting his course from time to time, pulling himself back into line. As he goes straight ahead, on course, his endurance will be perfected.—2 Cor. 13:5.
THE MOST IMPORTANT ACTIVITY
5. What is the only worthwhile objective, and why?
5 There are many activities in which a person can engage that are beneficial in a lesser or greater degree to mankind and to one’s own self. But the state of affairs that exists in the world makes these lead to disappointment and frustration. In fact, these efforts are at best only a temporary aid, for all mankind is dying. If there is a way by which one can gain everlasting life, not only for himself, but also for others, this would be the best course to take. It would be the only one worthy of devoting one’s entire life to, because without life no other activities, beneficial or pleasurable, can be pursued. There is such a way, with the most worthwhile objective, in fact, the only fully worthwhile one in our time, and the only course in which a person can endure successfully. That way is the service of Jehovah God and his kingdom through Christ Jesus. As the Creator and the Maker of all good things for mankind, he promises through his kingdom to bring a righteous, lasting new order upon this earth in which man can have the fullest expression of the qualities that God implanted in him, under righteous conditions and with endless life.—Isa. 9:6, 7; 25:7, 8.
6. Describe the world’s view of endurance.
6 As to the proper view of endurance: In the world the word “endurance” has a distasteful sound. The world’s view of endurance can well be illustrated by the experience of a man on a life raft. Such a man is thrown into the situation against his will. He is at the mercy of the elements. He may endure because of a stubborn desire to live. He may survive a long ordeal of scarcity of food and water and may be rescued from the raft in time, but he is so weak that he must be fed and taken care of by others, perhaps for some time. He himself can help no one else. It is a joyless experience, a mere undergoing of sufferings with determination, waiting for the end of the ordeal to come.
7. Contrast the Christian’s view of endurance with that of the world.
7 One who is serving God as a Christian is different. True, he must endure. That endurance includes facing up to the things of everyday life as well as much opposition, suffering and persecution. Where, then, is a Christian’s endurance different? Well, differently from the man on the raft, he starts on his course voluntarily, knowing where he is aiming and why he must endure. He also knows that he has Jehovah God at his side. He does not despair; he is not starved as he goes along, because he is spiritually fed. Instead of getting weaker like the man on the raft, he keeps getting stronger because he knows that he is pleasing God. He is helping others to endure. His interest in others occupies him so that he thinks little of any hardships he may undergo. He is spiritually built up. As he endures, he gets stronger instead of weaker. His destination is sure, not a matter of doubt, and he is happy. Knowing where he is going and why, he is able to endure with joy because it is evidence that he is on the right course and is a token of God’s approval of him. The apostle Paul encouraged the Thessalonian Christians with this very truth:
8. Of what did Paul say endurance of persecutions and tribulations was a proof? Why would such an endurer not have a sad countenance?
8 “We ourselves take pride in you among the congregations of God because of your endurance and faith in all your persecutions and the tribulations that you are bearing. This is a proof of the righteous judgment of God, leading to your being counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are indeed suffering.” (2 Thess. 1:4, 5) Such endurance works out benefits for the endurer and for those who observe his conduct. Having God’s approval he cannot help but be happy. He sees matters working out just as he expected them to—just as God’s Word foretold they would—so he has no cause nor inclination to complain. He will not have a sad countenance, as though his endurance is a burden.
9. What is the Scriptural evaluation of endurance?
9 The Scriptures place a high value on endurance and show that it is one of the qualities that a Christian must have. As Jesus himself pointed out, by endurance on their part Christians would acquire their souls (lives). (Luke 21:19) The apostle Paul commended the Christians at Thessalonica for their endurance due to their hope in the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thess. 1:3) Peter admonished Christians to add to the other Christian qualities the important one of endurance. (2 Pet. 1:6) Constant are the warnings in the Scriptures against falling away or forsaking the Christian course, dropping out of the race.—Heb. 10:38, 39; 2 Tim. 4:10; Matt. 24:13; Heb. 6:4-6; Rev. 2:10.
THE SITUATION TODAY
10. What is the situation in Christendom as regards endurance?
10 What have we observed as to endurance among those who have professed to take up the course of being followers of Christ? In Christendom there are millions of dropouts, wholesale increase in disrespect of law and order, and the churches in Christendom have been most alarmed of all by the tremendously growing dropout rate among the clergy. Jesus foresaw this very thing, saying: “Because of the increasing of lawlessness the love of the greater number will cool off.” (Matt. 24:12) These things, therefore, are no surprising facts to the student of the Bible, for God’s Word tells us that Christendom is a part of Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, which is against God, and therefore these clergymen are not men truly dedicated to Jehovah God through Jesus Christ. They do not have his spirit and his assistance, without which it is impossible to endure. No wonder they drop out.—Rev. 18:2, 21; Jer. 51:58; Isa. 40:30, 31.
NEGATIVE ATTITUDE WEAKENS ENDURANCE
11, 12. (a) What is the situation with most of Jehovah’s witnesses? (b) What evidences would show that the endurance of some is weakening?
11 But what is the situation among those who have come to a knowledge of Jehovah and his purpose through his kingdom and who have made a true dedication to Jehovah through Jesus Christ? While by far the majority are enduring, some, sad to say, have to a greater or lesser extent lost their first love and joy in serving God and have begun to look upon the Kingdom service as a work that is burdensome. Although we might not have that attitude, our joy in endurance is weakening if, when we are in the field service, we are just waiting for the time to quit and go home. It is a sign that we need to think seriously about refreshing our endurance.
12 Also, when someone speaks of taking up full-time pioneer service, another may say, “That’s not for me. I’m just not made to keep up that kind of work day after day.” Again, when someone expresses a desire to become a missionary or move to another land to serve in a wider field, have you heard others make remarks like these: “What do you want to do that for? You’ve got a good life here.” “How are you going to support yourself?” “What if you get sick? You won’t have the hospitals they have here.” Such remarks are evidences that the endurance of these persons is weakening. Worse, such an attitude works toward breaking down the endurance of others.
13. With what should our endurance be accompanied, and how did Jesus illustrate this?
13 Jehovah has given his people work to do, and he wants them to enjoy it. (Eccl. 3:12, 13) Jesus, even while undergoing heavy trials, was joyful. He knew when he entered his ministry at the age of thirty years that he would suffer much at the hands of the Jews and would finally be put to death. He told his disciples this in advance. But did he let this dampen his joy in serving God? No. The apostle Paul says: “For the joy that was set before him he endured a torture stake, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:2) He joyfully recommended his course to others and showed that they would not be alone in it when he extended the invitation: “Get under my yoke with me.” (Matt. 11:29, ftn., NW, 1950 edition) Even on the last days of his life on earth, when he knew an ignominious death on the torture stake was imminent, he did not lose his joy and make those around him sad; rather, he strengthened his disciples, giving them courage to bear up. In fact, on the very night before his death he gave his warmest, most encouraging and heart-strengthening talk to his disciples.—John, chapters 14 to 17.
14. What part do the angels play in the matter of our endurance?
14 Now Jesus Christ, glorified in heaven, is in command of the holy angels and in charge of the preaching work that must be done. He has assigned the angels under him to responsible duties, overseeing the proclamation of “this good news of the kingdom.” (Matt. 24:14; Rev. 14:6, 7) They are “sent forth to minister for those who are going to inherit salvation.” (Heb. 1:14) These angels are not sent to search out the faults of those in the preaching work and to condemn them, but to help them. They are concerned most deeply with the work that God’s servants are doing, because they see clearly that it has to do with the vindication of Jehovah’s name. They want to see integrity maintained and Satan proved by Jehovah’s Christian witnesses to be a liar in his claim that man on earth will not keep integrity to God, but will, because of selfishness or fear, fail to endure under test. The angels observe the attitude and actions of Jehovah’s servants, and they are happy when God’s people carry on his work in peace, unity and endurance. (1 Cor. 4:9; 11:10) They are disappointed when some show a lack of obedience and a failure to endure. They stand fully equipped and ready to give all necessary help to Christians who call upon God for their services. With Jehovah’s spirit upon his Christian witnesses and with angels backing them up, Christians have full assurance that they can endure.—Ps. 34:7; 2 Ki. 6:15-17.
JEREMIAH AN EXAMPLE OF ENDURANCE
15, 16. Whose life provides an example of endurance for us, and what was the situation when he started his course of endurance?
15 The Bible tells us that “all the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction, that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Rom. 15:4) One of these whose recorded life course provides much to strengthen our endurance is Jeremiah. It will be profitable for us to give attention to him so that we may build up the quality of endurance in our lives.
16 The kingdom of Judah was in a bad condition in the time of Jeremiah’s ministry. The ten-tribe kingdom of Israel had been taken away by the nation of Assyria nearly one hundred years before Jeremiah’s prophesying began. The kingdom of Judah had followed the course of unfaithfulness that her sister, the ten-tribe kingdom, had pursued, eventually becoming even worse. Before Jeremiah came upon the scene King Manasseh had produced so much wickedness by promoting Baal worship that, even though he later repented, Judah continued saturated in such wickedness that Jehovah declared that he would in time wipe out Jerusalem and would let the inhabitants of Judah be carried away.—2 Chron. 33:18, 19; 2 Ki. 21:13, 14.
17. How did Jeremiah know that his being a prophet would mean a test of endurance for him?
17 Amon the son of Manasseh was like his father. After a wicked reign of two years he was succeeded by Josiah, in 659 B.C.E. It was in the thirteenth year of Josiah that Jeremiah was called by Jehovah to prophesy to Judah, forty years before Jerusalem’s destruction. King Josiah was doing what he could to restore true worship in Israel. He brought about great reforms, but still there was much wickedness in the land. When Jeremiah was called to the office of prophet he knew that it would be a test of endurance for him. Jehovah warned him that the Jews would fight against him and that there was a danger that he might be struck with terror because of them. Jehovah pointed out that there was no reason for fear because He would back Jeremiah up and would be with him to deliver him. Jeremiah, therefore, should speak everything that God told him to speak.—Jer. 1:7, 8, 17-19.
18. Why was Jeremiah’s message one that would require endurance, for him to deliver it?
18 Jehovah told Jeremiah what the nature of his work would be, revealing that it was the delivering of a message that would bring great opposition. Jeremiah was required to tell Judah, particularly the priests, prophets and princes thereof, to their very faces, that they had turned away from Jehovah. There were blood marks of the souls of the innocent ones on Judah’s skirts. (Jer. 2:26, 34) The nation of Judah was like a prostitute. (Jer. 3:1) She had broken the covenant she had made with Jehovah. (Jer. 11:3-8) And finally, Jeremiah had to tell the people that to save their lives they should submit to the king of Babylon—speech that to the Jewish leaders was treason and subversive action, worthy of death. (Jer. 27:12, 17) Furthermore, he informed the Jews that Babylon would conquer them, taking them into exile for seventy years—a strong message indeed.—Jer. 25:7-11; 32:24, 36.
SIMILARITY TO JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES
19. What are five outstanding similarities of Jeremiah’s experience to that of Jehovah’s witnesses today?
19 A study of the actions of Jeremiah is appropriate for Jehovah’s witnesses today, to which they should pay more than the usual attention. The similarity of Jeremiah’s experience to that of Jehovah’s witnesses can be readily noted: First, the commission, an urgent declaration of judgment from Jehovah; second, a spiritual rebuilding of those who could become zealous servants of Jehovah; third, the demonstration of the operation of God’s spirit upon Jeremiah. God’s word was as a fire in Jeremiah’s bones that did not die out but grew in intensity as he endured. (Jer. 20:9) Fourth, the negative attitude of Jehovah’s dedicated servants the Jews, which was like that of the religions of Christendom and like a few among God’s people today. These Jews could have and should have supported Jeremiah in his work, but they had undermined one another’s faith, losing joy in Jehovah, zeal and spirituality to a death-dealing degree. And, fifth, the need for endurance.
20. Why was Jeremiah happy, although he endured so much?
20 James, the half brother of Jesus and one of his faithful disciples, said: “Look! We pronounce happy those who have endured.” (Jas. 5:11) Jeremiah, after having endured, was happy. He endured through the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of its king of the line of David, as he had prophesied. He was taken down into Egypt by the few Jews who were left in the land by the Babylonians, to continue his work of prophesying—a total of more than forty years of endurance in Jehovah’s service, in a territory assignment that grew progressively worse. He was not happy to see Jerusalem destroyed or its temple pillaged; in fact, he wrote the book of Lamentations, an expression of deep sorrow at the reproach it brought on Jehovah’s name. But he was happy to see God’s word carried out, vindicating him as Jehovah’s true prophet. So powerful was his prophesying that a lamenting and denunciatory complaint is today called a “jeremiad.” Furthermore, Jeremiah saw his preaching bear fruitage, other praisers of Jehovah who were also spared due to the upbuilding feature of his message. Notable among these were Baruch and Ebed-melech.
21. What sort of person was Jeremiah?
21 Jeremiah had opportunity many times to drop out during his more than forty years of prophesying, but he was not of that sort. Rather, he was of the faithful, enduring sort of worshipers by whom God is not ashamed to be “called upon as their God, for he has made a city ready for them.”—Heb. 11:16; 1 John 2:19.
22. (a) Does Jehovah have inspired prophets today? (b) What kind of prophets does he have, if any?
22 Jeremiah was a prophet called by Jehovah and inspired to declare his word. He was also a priest. (Jer. 1:1) Today Jehovah’s Word is complete and he no longer inspires persons to prophesy for him, but he does have witnesses on the earth upon whom he has put his spirit and he has sent them in a priestly capacity, teaching God’s laws, and has also commissioned them to preach. In a sense his faithful anointed ones are prophets, in that they declare the prophecies written, along with their application. (Acts 2:17) Their companions, the “great crowd” of “other sheep,” have undertaken to assist them in the worldwide proclamation of the good news of the Kingdom and to declare the prophecies as announced by the faithful anointed remnant. Can they maintain the faith and endurance of Jeremiah? We will consider how this can be done in the following article.—Mark 13:10.
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The world’s view of endurance is that it is like the experience of a man on a life raft. A Christian’s endurance is different; he starts on his course voluntarily and keeps getting stronger